Monday, May 3, 2010

His and Hers!

I swore I was done acquiring bikes, but when these two Raleigh Superbes popped up on Craigslist -- both for a price you'd expect to pay for one -- I decided to give them a good home.

That's not entirely true.  My first thought was to flip them.  They were under-priced and I thought with a little cleaning, I could sell them for twice what I paid.  Well, they weren't home five minutes before that plan fizzled.  They were simply too clean, too intact, too lovely to sell.

If I'm reading the hubs correctly, they're from 1971.  Otherwise, there are very few clues to indicate these bikes are nearly 40 years old. They have their fork lock keys.  They are without rust or dents (except a garage ding in the male bike's fender).  They have the original Dunlop tires.  They shift and brake perfectly.  They have identical Scwhinn bells on the handlebars and matching, pristine Sacramento registration stickers from 1974.

One small mystery (paging Dr Aaron) lies with the Schwinn seats on each of them. They're identical and of very high quality, so it's not as if they lost their Brooks saddles over time or use.  These appear to be the saddles they've had since the 1970s.  Did Superbes sometimes come with Schwinn saddles in the U.S. market?

For me, most of the fun of collecting anything -- casino chips, old pipes, pens -- comes from understanding that the objects you acquire have a story behind them.  Someone saved her money to buy her husband that briar pipe.  Or someone handled that chip from the Sahara while listening to Louis Prima in the Casbah Lounge.  With bikes, there are so many possible stories that it's usually impossible to guess. Was it a graduation gift that never made the trip to college?  Or was it trusted, reliable transportation for a generation of trips to school, work and piano lessons?

The great thing about his-and-hers vintage bikes is you already know one key part of the story.  The bikes were bought at the same time from the same bike shop.  They were registered together and the same person applied the stickers.  They belonged to a couple -- perhaps newlyweds or older folks who planned to put them on the back of the Winnebago. But they almost certainly represented someone's hopes of happy times and rides together with a loved one. 

Now, they belong to Jan and me.  And we're going to have happy times and rides together.


  1. Great find! and in excellent shape!

    The only "matched" pair of bikes we have are our Twentys. Something to do with me being 6'-2" and my bride 5'-1"...She can only ride 17" and smaller frames.

    The Schwinn seats are replacements, perhaps the owners had Schwinns and preferred those saddles, or the bikes came with Brooks Leather and the owners felt they were too hard and the shop swapped them out for what they had readily available. AFAIK most if not all Raleigh Superbes came with B67 saddles. What I find interesting is the no dynohubs and lights?


  2. Aaron, I think your guesses on the seats are in the right neighborhood. As for the lights/hubs, that is a puzzler. My other Superbe also has no trace of hub lighting, equipped instead with an after-market fork light and bottle generator. Did the dyno hubs tend to stop working through years? Based on my narrow experience (owning three and knowing of a fourth) that few hubs and lighting systems survived.

  3. As long as the hubs were not taken apart improperly (separating the armature from the magnet ring)they seem to last indefinitely. They only put out about 2 watts compared to the 3watts+ of a bottle generator and the newer hubs.

    I have several that are 40+ years old that still work fine, in fact other than the weight they are awesome with the new LED lights that have come along in the past few years.


  4. Baaaah! That was unexpected! I can't possibly be jealous, after having sold my green Raleigh Lady's Sports "Lucy 3-Speed" and a matching green men's Raleigh Sprite last Fall... and yet I am : ) Well, our matching Raleigh DL-1 Tourists say hello : )